model train set on track

A Short History of TCA Standards

e*Train Issue: Sep 2014   |   Posted in:

By Ron Morris, TCA Historian                         Summer-Fall 2014

Editor’s Note. Looking at the major buttons on the site menu, one might wonder why the prominence of something called Standards. We asked Ron Morris to give us some background on how TCA started setting standards, and in his usual thorough manner, he did.

In the early days of the TCA there were few, if any, train meets as we know them today. The early collectors sought trains by placing ‘want ads’ in the publications of the day, newspapers and word-of-mouth.  There were then, like now, people refinishing, restoring and repainting items and trying to sell them as original. The TCA, ca. 1957, set up a committee to develop standards for identifying these items. The committee reported back at the 1958 Board of Directors (BoD) meeting. The report was accepted but they filed it without action. At the 1962 BoD meeting they approved a Policy Statement defining identifying these repainted / refinished / restored items.

In two years, on June 26, 1964 the BoD adopted the first set of TCA Description Standards as a policy of the Association for direction and guidance. They were: MINT, LIKE NEW, EXCELLENT, GOOD, FAIR and POOR. These Description Standards were revised by the BoD in October 1966 to include VERY GOOD and introduced the identification of restored and refinished equipment by use of pressure sensitive labels. Grading description standards for paper were adopted by the BoD in June 1997.

The basic grade descriptions remained in place for a number of years, but sellers started to “refine” the grading by adding pluses and minuses to redefine the condition. This so degraded the Description Standards that the BoD tasked the Standards Committee to develop a new set of Standards.

Complete details on TCA’s standards may be found here.

Members of the Standards Committee may be found on this committee list.

The new Condition Standards, C-10 to C-1 with their specific descriptions, along with the new Paper Standards, P-10 to P-4 with their specific descriptions, were adopted by the BoD in June 2004. The grading standards for Refinished / Restored items was approved in 2008 and they range from R-5 (top) to R-1 (very poor).

During this entire period the Description Standards applied ONLY to condition, never to operability. Several years ago operation standards were proposed, however due to the complexity of properly define and test operability, the Standards Committee voted the proposal as not feasible at this time.

In addition to all these efforts to define the condition standards, TCA was also requiring that those producing replacement parts mark them so that their use could be identified at a later date.

Ed. Note: These standards are monitored and enforced by the TCA on its members in their dealings, but not on non-member merchants. Standards Committee Members are present at most TCA functions to enforce the rules and regulations pertaining to the proper identification of toy train restorations, reproductions and related items. A large part of a Committee Member’s responsibilities includes instructing the general membership on how to recognize fake and reproduction items.